Press release Hubrecht Institute

Scientists develop more accurate stem-cell model of early developing mouse embryo

20 February 2020

Scientists from the Hubrecht Institute (KNAW) and the University of Cambridge (UK) have managed to generate complex embryo-like structures from mouse embryonic stem cells. These structures, called gastruloids, can now for the first time grow somites, the blocks of tissue that later develop into the vertebrae and muscles of the embryo.

It is the first time that scientists managed to generate such advanced embryolike structures that represent this stage of embryonic development, which occurs after implantation in the uterus. This model system allows these later stages of embryonic development to be studied in a dish. The results of their study were published in Nature on the 19th of February.
During embryogenesis, a fertilized egg develops into a complete organism. However, much is still unknown about the processes that direct embryonic development in mammals. For example, how do mammals regulate the number of vertebrae that make up their spines, or on which side of the body the heart should develop? Every now and then, something goes wrong in these processes. How does this happen? And can we prevent this from happening? Which compounds are beneficial for embryonic development, and which ones are bad? Studies that address such questions often require the use of mouse embryos. These embryos however develop within the uterus and it is difficult to obtain them in large numbers. Scientists from the laboratories of Alexander van Oudenaarden and Katharina Sonnen (Hubrecht Institute) and the laboratory of Alfonso Martinez Arias (University of Cambridge) are therefore developing an alternative: gastruloids, embryo-like structures generated from stem cells in the lab.

More information

Read the full article on the website of Hubecht Institute.

Hubrecht Institute

The Hubrecht Institute – an Academy research institute – focused on developmental and stem cell biology. It encompasses 20 research groups that perform fundamental and multidisciplinary research, both in healthy systems and disease models. Since 2008, the institute is affiliated with the University Medical Center Utrecht, advancing the translation of research to the clinic. The Hubrecht Institute has a partnership with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL).

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